New Visitor's Center in Acre to Transform the Western Galilee.
(photo credit: KKL-JNF)
Some 2.5 million tourists visit the city of Akko annually, usually on short day-trips to the spectacular and enchanting historical sights this ancient port city has to offer. With tourism comprising of 40 percent of the Galilee’s annual income, Jewish National Fund USA (JNF) and local partner organizations have sought ways to best market the region’s hidden gems and treasures and to encourage economic growth through tourism. Many visitors to the Galilee are unaware of the region’s rich cultural and artistic offerings, which includes quaint Druze villages known for their hospitality, boutique wineries, fantastic restaurants, artist colonies, and tour operators.
To address this issue and to promote the unique tourism opportunities available within an hour’s distance from Akko, JNF USA transformed a 150-year-old Ottoman-era building in the Old City of Akko into the new Jewish National Fund Western Galilee Tourism Information Center.
The 1,400-square-foot Center, situated in a quiet courtyard on Saladin Street amid a maze of arched alleyways and a bustling merchant bazaar, was established to encourage tourists to expand their experience beyond Akko and into the rest of the Galilee by showcasing handcrafted Galilean products and promoting unique tourist opportunities. The high-ceilinged, light-filled Center boasts comfortable seating, maps, brochures, several computer stations, and a group of well-trained staff to assist visitors as well as to point out places of interest.
On Tuesday, March 8, 2016 the JNF Western Galilee Tourist Information Center was officially dedicated with a ceremony and festive celebration. Guests were welcomed into an Ottoman-style bazaar for a reception featuring wine, beer, artisan cheeses, and other delicacies from throughout the Galilee. Most vendors featured at the grand reception are members of Western Galilee Now (WGN), a JNF USA-sponsored consortium of boutique winemakers, restauranteurs, artists, and tour guides that aims to promote the cultural diversity and history of the region.
WGN Director Michal Shiloah Gal-Nor, who worked tirelessly to develop the Center, expressed her pride and excitement about the project: “This is an amazing moment that represents three years of dedicated partnership with JNF. The Center will serve as a gateway into the Galilee and will showcase the small businesses and restaurants that don’t usually receive much coverage on typical itineraries. WGN is proud to be JNF’s voice in Israel.”
After the reception, guests made their way into the Center for the ribbon-cutting and mezuzah-affixing ceremony, which was followed by felicitations and greetings from government officials and JNF USA leaders. In attendance were the Mayor of Akko Shimon Lankri, Minister of Tourism Yariv Levin, JNF USA CEO Russell F. Robinson, and KKL-JNF Co-Chairman Dr. Uzi Landau. Mayor Lankri thanked JNF USA for “choosing Akko as the site of this beautiful Center,” and expressed his hope that it will enable visitors to see Northern Israel in a new light.
Minister of Tourism Yariv Levin added, “Our greatest challenge in tourism is to ensure that when tourists visit one place, they realize that there is more to do than initially thought possible. JNF’s Western Galilee Tourist Information Center changes the picture completely in for the north, opening up possibilities to bring people to the many new places in the vicinity.”
The above-mentioned dignitaries were joined by dozens of JNF USA lay leaders who were in Israel for the $1 Billion Dollar Road Map Mission, and were amazed to see the end result of a project that has been in the works for years. The Center is a flagship project that is part of JNF USA’s Go North initiative, which seeks to strengthen the economy and social fabric of the Northern Israel by drawing 300,000 new residents to the Galilee over the next decade.
Marti Eisenberg, a San Diego resident and member of the JNF USA’s Israel Relations Task Force, said, “JNF doesn’t pick sides. It’s important to strengthen Akko and the entire Galilee region, and to highlight the multicultural character of the country.”
Robinson, who was greeted with resounding applause for his steadfast role in ensuring the project’s completion, summed up the purpose and beauty of the Center with a sweeping statement: “This is going to help strengthen the Galilee to such an extent that one day it will no longer be called the ‘periphery.’ The Negev, the center of the country, and the Galilee will simply be considered as part of one nation, Israel.”
The JNF Western Galilee Tourist Information Center is open Sunday-Thursday from 9:00 am -5:00 pm, with special operating hours on Fridays and Saturdays.
For further information, comments or permission please contact
KKL-JNF – Information and Internet Department